By Samantha Norling, Digital Collections Manager, Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields
As an early-career archivist I found myself working as a “lone arranger” in an art museum—a setting in which I had no previous experience. Early on, I learned from my colleagues in departments throughout the museum about the many organizations and groups in which museum professionals could get involved. Of these, the Museum Computer Network captured my attention immediately. As colleagues attended MCN each year and reported back on what they saw, heard, and learned about the use of technology in museums, I decided it was time to step out of my archives circle to explore the museum technology world…
When you run into an old friend at Ignite, you take a #MCNselfie, obviously.
…three years later, I am happy to say that I finally made it to my first MCN conference, made possible by the MCN Scholar program. After two unsuccessful applications for a scholarship in previous years, I decided to give it a third try in 2017—and boy am I glad I did. Being counted among the 2017 cohort of MCN Scholars is an honor, as everybody brought something unique to both the group of scholars and the conference as a whole—representing different professional and personal backgrounds, areas of expertise, and knowledge—with different goals for what they wanted to get out of and bring to the conference. For me, I traveled to Pittsburgh with the goal of contributing my perspective as an archivist to various conversations happening in the MCN community, particularly to those about the interoperability of LAM data.
The conference theme of “Looking Back, Thinking Forward, Taking Action” provided the perfect framework for my first (and future) MCN experience, as it encouraged me to be thoughtful in considering every session I attended and interaction I had with other attendees in terms of the knowledge, tools, and practices that I could take back to my museum and put into action. It’s been nearly a month since returning to work after an energizing five days at MCN, and I’ve only just begun to start putting some key ideas into action, with plans to continue throughout the year…leading up to MCN 2018 in Denver of course!
Popular IMA artwork pages, grouped by collection (color), and sized by number of views.
In “Asset Management 2.0” I learned that some museums include alternative image text in their DAMS to facilitate the creation of more accessible web content—we’re now exploring how we can accomplish this at the museum.
And I’m joining in on this plan to set a recurring calendar event once a month to check in with a different MCN colleague!
Chair: Susan Wamsley, Digital Asset Manager, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
I have worked for over ten years in the field of digital asset management setting up DAM systems from analog photography libraries for global companies. In my current role, I work closely with all museum departments to facilitate digital media asset submissions into the museum DAM system. Following the museum’s archival and metadata standards, I ensure the integrity and reliability of the information in the system and provide support to all users. I also research and provide recommendations on best practices for software, asset preservation and digital rights management. I have encountered and solved many implementation, workflow and user adoption issues over the years and am excited to share my knowledge.
Co-Chair: Jennifer Sellar, Senior Digital Image Archivist, The Museum of Modern Art
Jennifer Sellar began her archiving career at Ole Miss working with a large collection of Southern photography and home movies. At the Museum of Modern Art, she was hired to organize the Imaging Studio’s archive and create an archival workflow for the department’s photographers. When she arrived the archive was still stored on CDs and searchable only through an enormous Excel spreadsheet. Since the launch of MoMA’s DAM in 2008, she has overseen day to day front end operations and works across various departments throughout the museum to create metadata/taxonomy structures and create guidelines for the museum’s quickly expanding digital trove of images, video, audio, and related materials.
Chair: Dan Dennehy, Senior Photographer and Head of Visual Resources, Minneapolis Institute of Art
As Senior Photographer and Head of Visual Resources at Minneapolis Institute of Art, I lead a department responsible for collection imaging, digital asset management and image rights issues. As a member of Mia’s Media and Technology Division, I have the pleasure of working with a creative team of makers and developers dedicated to finding the most innovative ways of bringing our collections and communities together. It has never been a more exciting time to be involved with art and imaging, as new computational techniques revolutionize our practice. I would be honored to help lead the efforts of MCN’s Digital Media SIG in facilitating dialogue around our current and future challenges.
Co-Chair: Kurt Heumiller, Studio Production Manager, The Museum of Modern Art
As studio production manager for the department of Imaging and Visual Resources at the Museum of Modern Art, Kurt Heumiller is responsible for ensuring the highest image quality, developing workflow improvements, and evaluating new and emerging technologies and methods. Having spent nearly a decade in the museum imaging world, he feels blessed to work in a field with such talented and dedicated members and wishes to help MCN provide a resource for this community.
Chair: Brad Dunn, Web and Digital Communications Director, The Field Museum
Brad is the Web and Digital Communications Director for The Field Museum in Chicago, overseeing web and mobile experiences, and storytelling in social media and science filmmaking. His experience blends his time in interactive, games, social media and experiential design, stage directing, filmmaking and advertising. He has crafted user- and story-driven multichannel engagements across digital devices and real world spaces for exuberant live audiences, smartphone wielding consumers, smiling children, intoxicated cruise ship passengers, and upper eastside arts funders. The common thread is his desire to tell stories and create experiences that inspire and encourage human connection and personal discovery.
Co-Chair: Mark McKay, Director of Digital, Art Gallery of Ontario
Mark leads a 10 person division made up of 3 departments. Responsible for developing and executing an action plan in support of the AGO’s Technology Strategy. Google Analytics and Adwords certified content marketer. 12 years experience creating branded content and more than 7 years leading corporate digital and social media strategy. Trained in Project Management and Business Analysis. Eleven years of experience in the entertainment industry. Hands on advanced production knowledge of web development, design, video, and animation set me apart from my peers.
Chair: Jennifer Foley, Director of Education and Community Engagement, Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Jennifer Foley is the Director of Education and Community Engagement at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY. In this role she oversees all of the museum’s educational programs, as well as the development of educational and interpretive media content, including audio tours, exhibition media, and the museum’s artist interview series, Outspoken. Prior to coming the A-K she was the Director of Interpretation at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where she worked on numerous media projects, including content development for the museum’s collection app, ArtLens. She has been attending MCN since 2011, and signed on for a two year term as one of the program co-chairs for MCN2016 in New Orleans and MCN2017 in Pittsburgh.
Co-Chair: Kristin Bayans, Manager of Interpretive Media, Portland Art Museum
As Manager of Interpretive Media at the Portland Art Museum Kristin is a connector, producer, and storyteller. She works to diversify the museum narrative by interrupting the single authoritative voice with the voices and perspectives of Portland’s many communities. She accomplishes this by crafting inquiry based in-gallery and online participatory experiences linking visitors to each other, the museum’s permanent collection, and special exhibitions. At PAM, Kristin also drives initiatives grounding the museum to its city through intimate, personal community based story work with the Object Stories storytelling project and exhibition series. Ms. Bayans has served on NEH and IMLS grant review committees, spoken at national conferences, lead workshops, and published on the subjects of digital storytelling, developing participatory spaces for dialogue and reflection, and the visitor empowerment model among others. Immediately prior to PAM, she served as Senior Educator for the Vernier Technology and Design Lab at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and as an Assistant Educator for the Smithsonian’s Mobile Learning Institute. She holds an M.A. in Museum Studies from The George Washington University and an M.A. in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art. Kristin is passionate about the unique role museums can play as social justice advocates for their cities communities.
Chair: Janice Craddock, Director of Information Technology, Amon Carter Museum of American Art
As Director of Information Technology, Janice heads a department of three to provide technical support for about 120 staff. In her thirty years at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, she has seen firsthand how technology has changed, evolving into an increasingly vital role supporting the institutional mission—a change she has also witnessed during her twenty years involved with MCN. As IT SIG chair, Janice’s aim is to support new IT professionals and engage those with more experience in ongoing conversations about the fundamentals of IT operations and emerging technologies.
Co-Chair: Brian Dawson, Chief Digital Officer, Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation
Brian is the Chief Digital Officer at the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation, which also operates the Canada Aviation and Space Museum and the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. As CDO, Brian drives the development and implementation of the strategy for digital platforms, content, distribution and engagement throughout the organization, leading a team of information technology, digital media and exhibition specialists. Prior to joining the museum, Brian worked at Nortel Networks in telephony software development and process improvement. Brian holds a Bachelor of Computer Science from the Dalhousie University (Technical University of Nova Scotia) and a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Cape Breton. Brian is keen to help keep connections alive and conversations going through the year, with a regular rhythm of topic discussions, leverage tools such as the Basecamp platform more fully, and sounding out the SIG on additional ideas.
Chair: Melissa Gold Fournier, Manager Imaging services and IP, Yale Center for British Art
At the Yale Center for British Art, Melissa oversees digital imaging, manages the Center’s intellectual property and rights-related collection information, and serves as the lead for the Center’s participation in Yale’s shared digital asset management system. Melissa served as the convener of Yale University’s Open Access Implementation Working Group and oversees the online release of the Center’s open images. A museum collection professional since 1998, Melissa was grateful to find in MCN a superb resource for discussion and education around digitization and intellectual property. She has volunteered for MCN in various capacities since attending her first conference in Boston in 2005. Working with the IP SIG, Melissa wishes to help MCN continue to provide these opportunities to others.
Co-Chair: John ffrench, Director of Visual Resources, Yale University Art Gallery
John oversees workflow, design, color management and long-term archiving of images and image data and supervises the creation, quality control, asset management, distribution of and rights related to images of works of art for publication, study, documentation, educational programs, promotion and other uses. He has been actively involved in the development of the YUAG/Yale Campus DAM and the creation of Yale University’s Open Access policy. He also oversees the rights and reproductions staff responsible for clearing rights for internal publications and publicity campaigns at YUAG. On campus he founded and leads the Digital Coffee Group, a campus-wide organization established to create core standards, develop resources and provide guidance and support for digital imaging related technology, projects and professionals on campus. I am interested in working with the IP-SIG as I feel I have a sense of how these issues touch all of our work in museums.
Chair: Mandy Kritzeck, Digital Media Producer & Project Manager, The Corning Museum of Glass
Mandy Kritzeck is the Digital Media Producer and Project Manager at The Corning Museum of Glass. Working with an in-house digital media production team, she produces over 150 videos a year for both internal and external audiences including artist profiles, live-streamed demonstrations, lectures, conservation case studies, marketing videos, and docent trainings. Mandy manages the museum’s popular YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/corningmuseumofglass, which shares a mix of informational glass how-to demos and interviews with artists who work in glass. She has contributed to many digital media projects at the Corning Museum including the GlassApp web app, GlassLab web app and Pyrex Potluck website. She received an M.A. in History Museum Studies from The Cooperstown Graduate Program and a B.A. in American History, Museum Studies and Documentary Journalism from the University of Minnesota. Her prior experience includes the Minnesota Historical Society and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Find her on Twitter at @mkritzeck.
Co-Chair: Christophe Buffet, Creative Technologist and Digital Content Producer
Christophe has been producing digital content since 2004 for a variety of museums and institutions such as MASP (São Paulo Museum of Art), The São Paulo Art Biennial, the Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Monumenta, Bozar, The National Gallery or the British Museum. He helps cultural organizations define their digital strategy and content production methodology, select and set-up mobile interpretation and accessibility solutions.
Chair: Elena Villaespesa, Assistant Professor, Pratt Institute
Elena Villaespesa works as an Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute. Her research and teaching areas include: digital strategy, digital analytics, and user experience methods applied to the cultural and museum sector. Her professional career encompasses an international experience in some of the most prestigious museums in the world, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Tate in the United Kingdom and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Spain, where she has served in leading digital producer and data analyst roles.
Elena holds a M.A. in Arts Management and a Ph.D. in Digital Heritage from the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester. Her dissertation defines a performance measurement framework that may serve as a tool for museums to evaluate the success of their activities on social media. As part of her PhD research she worked in the action research project led by Culture 24 Let’s get real. Tate is the main case study for this research and as part of this collaboration she became a Tate Honorary Research Fellow 2015-17.
Elena will be looking to appoint a volunteer to join her as SIG co-chair during 2018.
Chair: Alexis Light, Senior Manager of Media Relations and Marketing, The Frick Collection
Alexis Light is currently the Senior Manager of Media Relations and Marketing at The Frick Collection, where she has worked since 2007. Throughout her tenure at the museum, she has been deeply involved in the role social media has played in shaping the voice of the institution and how it is used to communicate to its various audiences. As Social Media SIG chair, she hopes to strengthen our community of members, continue an open dialogue between colleagues, and evaluate strategies for ongoing cross-institutional collaboration through social. She received an M.A. in Modern Art, Connoisseurship and the History of the Art Market from Christie’s, New York, and a B.A. from Saint Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri. She has been actively participating in MCN since 2015.
Alexis will be looking to appoint a volunteer to join her as SIG co-chair during 2018.
In addition, the board of MCN has approved the creation of a new SIG called “Human-Centered Design SIG“, which will aim to foster conversations in the MCN community and beyond about who we serve, how to understand their needs, and the role that museums can and should play in the broader human community.
Chair: Elissa Frankle Olinsky, Senior User Experience Researcher, Ad Hoc LLC
Elissa Frankle Olinsky is a DC-based Senior User Experience Researcher at Ad Hoc LLC, where she works with the US Digital Service at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to help build websites with Veterans’ needs in mind. Prior to joining Ad Hoc, Elissa spent nine years at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, where she worked on social media, ethical leadership training, public programs with Holocaust survivors, citizen history, and the online and in-person visitor experience — sometimes all at the same time. When not working with Veterans, she can be found advocating for paid internships and better signage in museums. Elissa holds an AB in German from Princeton University and a Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education from The George Washington University.
Co-Chair: Seema Rao, Principal, Brilliant Idea Studio
Seema Rao runs the consulting firm, Brilliant Idea Studio, LLC, based in Cleveland, Ohio, working with museums, libraries, and non-profits to improve experiences at their sites. Seema has nearly 20 years of museum experience including leading large teams of educators, developing ground breaking interpretation, and implementing successful technology projects. She holds an MLIS/MS in Information Science and User Experience Design from Kent State University as well as a MA in Art History from Case Western Reserve University.
Not part of a SIG? Want to be? Click on the SIG links above and you’ll find a signup form on each SIG’s page, you can join as many SIGs as you like!
This audio blog is a series of short interviews collected from several speakers at the 2017 MCN conference, both academics and professionals while I was an MCN Scholarship recipient. They include brief conversations with former board members, newcomers to the conference, and those who already got addicted to the annual meetings of a unique cohort of enthusiastic museum professionals from the U.S. and beyond.
Each speaker was challenged with three key questions:
First, I asked them to share details from their conference presentations and highlight the most important takeaways from the projects they are currently involved in. A wide spectrum of projects ranged from developing hands-on museum apps and designing new interactive experiences across physical and digital worlds to reimagining what innovation means for contemporary museums.
Second, interviewees elaborated on how their projects fit with the current environment of museum technology, increasingly and rapidly moving towards a closer and more strategic engagement with “big data.” Even though big data and cultural analytics have a strong impact on how museums approach their tasks in enlarging audiences, entering new markets, improving access, and deepening engagement, a wide range of responses from different speakers interrogate the meaning and value of the “big data” in relation to creating eloquent museums experiences and establishing connections with key communities.
Finally, speakers sent their personal messages and birthday wishes to the MCN community celebrating this year the 50th anniversary of the network. Each speaker has a unique perspective, a distinct voice, and tons of positive energy to share with the rest of the MCN members.
If you missed the conference or want to get more details on some topics discussed during the 2017 MCN sessions, this is your chance! Enjoy!
Angie Judge, CEO, Dexibit
Session: Money, Data, and Power:
A Review of Museum Use Cases with Big Data Analytics
“It is great to see that the museum industry is moving towards the space where it’s becoming more informed and more aware and more purposeful in how it acts with data in its hands… ” Listen the Interview on SoundCloud (2.52 min)
Kubi Ackerman, Project Director, Future City Lab
Museum of the City of New York
Session: Designing the Future:
Creating an Interactive Gallery on the Future of New York City
“the lab is extremely data intensive… we wanted to have a big picture approach that really emphasizes how this information directly relates to experience of the city…”
By Monique Lassere, Digital Preservation Librarian, University of Arizona Libraries
As a first-time attendee and black librarian, I did not know what to expect at MCN2017. I had applied to the MCN Scholarship Program with the dream that I, an outsider, would be able to experience the museum computing community for a brief period of time. In no way did I expect my application to be accepted. I thought, what would my projects have in common with the other applicants—actual museum professionals and scholars? I arrived with an open mind and quickly realized my preconceptions about MCN and the conference were wrong. From the resonating keynote by three black innovators and thinkers in museums, history, and journalism, to the conversations surrounding agile software development to the wide array of projects the MCN Scholars presented on, I saw myself and the work I do in the community I was lucky to meet in Pittsburgh.
The conference kicked off with an inspiring, heavy-hitting keynote on diversity, representation, and hiring practices by Aleia Brown, Adrianne Russell, and Jamil Smith. At once, I saw and heard all the issues my colleagues in libraries so often talk about, the practices that are talking points for many but real issues for some, being discussed. We, in the academic community, often talk about giving power and voices to those not usually given it, about the importance of seeing yourself as a person of color in the spaces you inhabit or would like to, but this rarely happens. Finally, on stage, at MCN2017 I saw this in action.
Organizational culture continued to be a theme throughout the conference–in particular the issues of management, leadership, and methodologies for developing software. I recently started a new position in which I act as a product owner for software being developed as a part of our larger digital collections & preservation landscape. It’s a new experience for me–as it is for many libraries. To my surprise, there were a handful of incredibly dynamic conversations and presentations on leadership and agile software development, project management theory, and leadership as praxis. It was a great way to learn about what others are doing and get some comfort from the fact that we aren’t alone.
On the second to last day, the MCN Scholars presented our projects and my cohort’s work blew me away. One work I connected to in particular was Castle Kim’s work with the ESCAPE initiative, a program that integrates arts and science education and performing arts to enhance learning. It resonated to me as a poor-performing math and science student in junior high and captivated me by its creativity and collaborative efforts to think outside the box and engage with students. That’s the power of museum professionals, and further, the power of the MCN Scholars.
MCN is all about the people. Don’t get me wrong, the learning experiences available from the remarkably diverse sessions and the fun times visiting local museums and galleries are great, but it all comes down to who you meet.
From Day 1 it was easy to tell that MCN was centred on the people. Whether they knew you or only sort of knew you (“hey, I know you from Twitter”), MCN attendees were friendly and welcoming.
As a first timer from north of the border, sitting down with or taking an elevator with people from the Guggenheim, Smithsonian, or Getty (who each have staff larger than most BC towns) provided great opportunities to talk museums and learn about new trends from the people at the cutting edge. They are the gods of the Twittersphere, those names you see on blogs and that you think must be so much smarter and more capable than you. Or who at least have bigger budgets.
Being an MCN Scholar gave me the opportunity to meet these people who seemed so distant from my experience and professional context. It was the people themselves, however, whose genuine interest and friendliness revealed more commonalities and shared passions than I ever believed possible. And they sing just out of tune at karaoke, who knew?!
The 2017 MCN Scholar group was no different, 14 other museum professionals whose passion and innovation astounded me but whose friendliness helped create what I’m sure will become long-lasting professional connections.
As an MCN Scholar, I also had the chance to meet with many MCN Board members whose encouragement and interest made us Scholars feel like an important part of the conference. Thank you for supporting us in our presentations—it was great to see some of you in the crowd—and for supporting this meaningful scholarship.
At MCN we met our idols, we made our friends, and we were inspired. And yes: we will be back!
Some MCN Scholars (and Marilyn Monroe) toasting MCN’s 50th at the Andy Warhol Museum.
The 2017 MCN Scholars meeting up for our first (of many) group photos. It was great to have a group of like-minded first-timers who also had to present and were also loving every minute of conference!
Getting ready for our MCN Scholar Lightning Talks. Our group was so large we needed to rotate through the presenters’ table, but it made it look like there were lots of keep attendees right up in the front row. Can you spot some MCN staff and board members in the background? Thank you for coming and hearing our presentations – it was great to have your support!
Celebrating the end of our MCN scholarship talks with a trip to the Mattress Factory’s 40th anniversary party. Here some of us are in a roof selfie in the Kusama exhibit. Thanks MCN for putting us friends together and offering us such interesting cultural experiences too!
Senior Producer and New Media Lead, Lawrence Hall of Science
Attending MCN this year as a Scholar was not what I expected—and that’s because I really didn’t know what to expect. MCN 2017 was my first time attending a museum conference of any kind. Although I’ve been working at a museum for 5+ years, my work has mainly focused on our science curriculum efforts. In the last six months I’ve been shifting to the museum floor and when the MCN Scholarship opportunity came on my radar, I jumped at the chance to learn more.
My first impression of the conference was just how down-to-earth and friendly everyone was. The senior level people I sat next to at my Tuesday workshop Digital Storytelling for Museums made a point to introduce themselves and make me feel welcomed. I was also struck by the depth of community that’s been grown. By day two, MCN felt familiar—the closest thing I can compare it to was the feeling I had going away to summer camp as a kid. I even sang with two other MCN folks at an open mic one night! But if MCN is camp, then it’s a camp full of genius do-gooders ready to tackle systemic problems and questions with the gusto that makes me think real change is actually possible.
Left to right: Ben Fast, Kat Quigley, Jessica Miller
Finally, I really couldn’t get over how directly relevant so many of the sessions were to the exact projects I had waiting back home on my desk. For example, I am working with a group of UC Berkeley students on making a VR learning simulation about fin whales…there was a sessionLicense to Krill where the Royal Ontario Museum shared their experience making video game about blue whales! Even the things that seemingly didn’t relate to my particular work stream, like chatting with businesses helping with museum asset management, were eye opening and helped me get a more holistic picture of the museum ecosystem.
I came to MCN a little nervous and slightly pessimistic about my career options and left with new friends and a fresh perspective on the museum world. A few weeks out and I am still glowing with gratitude for the opportunity to experience this wonderful community and hope to continue for years to come.
MCN took a bold step forward this year with three African American speakers, two of them women, on stage to keynote the conference discussing race and equity. Woah. See, lots of people talk the talk, but this year MCN wove the themes of reconciliation and equity throughout the conference. A group of attendees also made progress in the field, although perhaps less visibly to the outside world.
Like so many things at MCN, this started on Twitter.
A few weeks before the conference, Karen Vidángos posted about being nervous and excited to attend her first MCN. Several people replied about the comradery of the conference and not being scared to say hello. I jumped in and said I’d like to meet some of those in the thread; several were fellow people of color (POC) whose work I admire. This was the beginning of the best part of MCN 2017 for me.
nikhil trivedi had the wisdom to turn that Twitter thread into dinner plans after MCN Ignite. Word spread. Nine people, who for the most part had never before met in person, showed up. Nine minorities. Nine people of color. I saw myself reflected across the table for the first time at a museum conference. I found my tribe.
The group lifted my spirits during exhausting discussions about values, museums, and bringing our whole selves to work. I knew I didn’t have to explain the difficulties of fighting for space in institutions that haven’t welcomed me as a visitor or employee. After introductions at dinner we discussed how museums are not neutral, and it’s time to stop talking about the well-documented issues in the field, and start talking solutions. We committed ourselves to be there for each other.
Lanae Spruce, was “able to shut up and listen to others talk about what they’ve done to increase equity in their institutions, or across their digital projects. It felt good. It gave me hope for the little queer brown girls who will get to see themselves reflected in culture at some of the best museums in the world.”
For nikhil, who has attended MCN since 2012, “connecting with a group of POC museum workers was such a great way to kick off the conference. It created a home base that I carried through the rest of the week. These types of spaces are rare for a lot of us. There have always been other people of color at the conference, but it was amazing having a critical mass enough where we could coordinate something like this.”
Starting the conference this way helped frame so many conversations. It also helped to find familiar faces to support and amplify each other throughout the week. And it gave me hope that enough of us are beyond talking and are truly enacting change, no matter how small. Taking up space and meeting each other is one small step forward.
Thank you to my colleagues and friends who contributed and formed a community.
One of my favorite artwork is Irises by Vincent van Gogh, displayed at J. Paul Getty Museum. What I love most about the painting is the story behind it. Van Gogh did not truly ‘complete’ the painting, for him the painting was a study. A work that he could immerse himself to inform, engage, and inspire within, much like what I’ve experience at MCN this year.
Irises by Vincent van Gogh
As I was coming to Pittsburgh for MCN2017 there was a lot going through my head. MCN was my first ever academic/professional conference; I would be giving my first conference presentation and doing a 5-minute lightning talk presentation as an MCN Scholarship recipient. On top of it all, I was a little nervous because I’ve had little professional experience in the museum world. Yes, I worked in the education department at Seattle Aquarium, and I want to collaborate with museums in my doctoral studies, but there was a tiny voice in the back of my head that I might not fit in.
After attending my first session and the Ignite Reception, I quickly understood what Dr. Marty, my advising professor, told me about MCN—how it is a fun and unique conference. Quickly the tiny voice in my head disappeared. I was actively experiencing MCN—a community of people engaged to inspire each other, to learn from one another, and to strengthen their knowledge, work, and love in museums. From the buffet of sessions I’ve attended, the museum information technology professionals I’ve networked with, and the conversations I had with other MCN Scholars made me realize I was not an outsider. I had a voice. I was part of a larger community asking questions that supported each other. We were concerned about our messages, resources, collections, education outreach, and how to connect with people through emerging technologies. As I shared my study interest of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) and user-generated content to the MCN community, I felt the support and validation in the work I am doing.
A favorite learning moment came as an unexpected surprise during “All Roads Lead to the Bathroom: Human Needs Paving the Way to Awesome Digital Experiences” session led by Elissa Frankle Olinsky. By adapting Abraham Maslow’s human motivation triangle, Elissa reminded us with museum user experience design that it is important to address visitors’ physical needs, such as bathroom locations. Most importantly, telling the visitors that “you cannot fail a museum.” I think it is same with research. As a researcher, I need to make sure that my research is not about people failing but about the people helping me make things better.
MCN is no ordinary conference or an organization, it is something more. MCN is a collection of individuals that are part of a community of practice to inform the users, engage professionals, and inspire a community. Like van Gogh’s Irises, MCN isn’t perfect or complete, but the 50 years of co-evolution with its members and community shows vividly.
I hope everyone has had the opportunity to Look Back at a great MCN 2017 and 50 years of MCN history in the amazing MCN50 Voices series of interviews, Take Action at their institutions and in their communities, and … Think Ahead about MCN 2018.
The past year has been such an amazing experience as one of the Program Co-Chairs, along with Jennifer Foley and Trish Oxford. With Jennifer and Trish stepping down after their two-year terms have concluded, MCN is looking for two people to take their place and, with me, help plan our annual conference in 2018, then taking the lead for 2019.
It’s a lot of work, but you’ll be part of a sizable leadership and management team of MCN colleagues, as well as a field full of people who want to speak at, attend, and contribute to MCN 2018.
Here are 10 highlights of my first year as Co-Chair:
Finding out just how much I already knew about the museum field—and how much there still is to learn.
Working with the committee of local museum technology professionals in our host city and finding out the amazing work being done there.
Crafting the theme, which starts pretty much right away and gets the Program Committee off to a rollicking start.
Developing Keynote speaker(s) ideas, also with the Program Committee. This year we had some innovative ideas and it was great to see them realized.
Calling for proposals in the spring—watching them trickle and then pour in, sending them out to the Program Committee for review, and then working together, with the help of a few hundred sticky notes, to turn them into a program.
The weekly Co-Chair conference call.
The conference itself, of course, which is a very different experience when you see it come together rather than just presenting.
And yet presenting was still a joy.
Developing the “other format” idea and receiving over two dozen proposals beyond the usual case studies, panels, and presentations.
My favorite—being able to say to people, “You should really propose that as a session!”
The official call for Co-Chair applications is below. Applications are due to [email protected] by December 22 January 7 (now extended!); I’m happy to answer any and all questions. Thanks,
MCN 2018 Conference Program Chair
Trish Oxford, MCN2017 Program Co-Chair
MCN Program Co-Chair 2018 & 2019
Position Title: Conference Program Co-Chair
Period: 2 years Start: late January 2018
Commitment: 3-5 hours/week throughout the year, increasing as the conference nears, with milestones in May and September, available full-time during the conference. Available one weekend in late March or early April for a site visit to that year’s conference location (paid for by MCN).
Compensation: the Conference Program Co-Chair is a volunteer role and is therefore not compensated; however, MCN does offer complimentary registration to the annual conference during the year(s) you serve.
Location: MCN’s Annual Conference is a North American based-conference that supports global involvement and has an emerging international following. The successful candidate is required to attend the Conference in person, as well as participate in regular phone or online meetings.
MCN2018 will take place in Denver, November 13–16, 2018, when the location of MCN2019 will be announced.
Deadline for applying: Extended until end of day, January 7!
Description: MCN is looking for two thoughtful, motivated, and dynamic museum professionals to serve as MCN Conference Program Co-Chairs for a two-year term starting in January 2018. This is an opportunity to help shape a major museum technology conference now and in future years, immerse yourself in cutting edge developments in the sector, broaden your networks on a national level, and to gain experience and professional development in event programming.
The Conference Program Co-Chairs provide leadership for the annual MCN Conference, creating the program through the conception and organization of workshops, panels and presentations in many different formats, experimental programs, keynotes, special events, and innovations not yet imagined. With current Conference Program Chair Rob Weisberg, the newly appointed Conference Program Co-Chairs will work as a team to develop an experiential conference program that serves the evolving needs of the MCN community and then serve as lead Conference Program Co-Chairs for the 2019 conference.
The ideal candidate will be passionate about the intersection of museums and technology and interested in developing an innovative conference program featuring proposals from participants from a wide range of institutions, backgrounds, and perspectives. They will be knowledgeable about MCN and the conference, having attended MCN several times in the previous five years. They will have existing networks within the sector, a strong understanding of the issues confronting museums with regards to technology and the practice of digital, and appreciate the challenges facing their colleagues from many different kinds of institutions and departments in the field. They will be active in the museum or cultural technology community and knowledgeable of trusted sources of information, and will be a proactive self-starter and a calm problem-solver with excellent oral and written communication skills. They will be a creative thinker both about big issues and small details, diplomatic under pressure, and ready to learn and adapt over the course of planning this conference.
About MCN: MCN is a nonprofit organization whose core purpose is to foster innovation and excellence by supporting professionals who seek to transform the way their cultural organizations reach, engage, and educate their audiences using digital technologies. We do this by building a community that attracts, nurtures, inspires and sustains exceptional professionals. Learn more.
For further information and a full overview of responsibilities, email [email protected].
To apply, please send an email articulating why you think you’d be a good fit for this position, and noting any relevant experience to: [email protected]. Please include a CV or link to your LinkedIn profile.
By Courtney Titus, Former Educational Technology Coordinator, Blaffer Art Museum
As I walked into my first MCN session as an MCN Scholar, I was reminded of the days when I started a new school. The same anxieties bubbled to the surface about being the new kid and feeling uncertain if I would fit in or feel welcomed. However, those fears were immediately silenced when I sat down and was warmly greeted by a veteran MCN attendee who was genuinely interested in getting to know me. I was delighted to discover that this was going to be a common occurrence throughout the conference. Everywhere I went—sessions, the membership lounge, bus rides, elevators—I was met with smiles, words of encouragement, and, on more than one occasion, much needed advice on the steps I could take to further my career.
I was equally delighted to discover that many of the session topics focused on how museums could create a similar welcoming environment for a more diverse group of staff members and visitors. The amazing keynote speakers set the tone for the conference by delving into the issues that prevent certain groups from working in museums as well as providing solutions for attracting these groups (e.g. pay your interns). Other sessions such as “All Roads Lead to the Bathroom” and “Museum Digital Content as Journalism?” explored ways museums could appear more inviting to visitors by caring for their basic needs and providing content that is relevant to them.
I walked away from the conference feeling inspired and motivated to apply what I learned as well as feeling genuinely grateful for having the opportunity to attend as an MCN Scholarship recipient. I know that regardless of where I ultimately end up in my career, the MCN conference will be a regular trip for me.